MEDORA, IND. – When Indiana’s top ag man taps the ceremonial sugar maple, noon, Sat., March 3 at Burton’s Maplewood Farm, he’ll christen the fourth annual National Maple Syrup Festival. Joe Kelsay, director of the Indiana Department of Agriculture, also will signify the first tree in the U.S. to be tapped for the 2012 maple sugaring season.
“Indiana is the southernmost state in the U.S. Maple Belt,” said Tim Burton, co-owner of Burton’s Maplewood Farm and co-founder of the festival, “so as far as we know, the first trees are tapped here.
Though there are about 100 maple syrup producers in Indiana and countless festivals, this is the first and only national maple syrup festival in America. It’s held the first two weekends in March at Burton’s Maplewood Farm and Medora Community School.
The festival starts at Medora Community School, where pancakes and sausage are served and the Sweet Victory Challenge baking and cooking competition takes place. The competition is sponsored by Vermont-based King Arthur Flour, the oldest flour company in the U.S. Judging takes place on March 3 for the youth division and March 10 for the adult division. For details, visit www.SweetVictoryChallenge.com.
Then visitors ride shuttle buses from the school to Burton’s Maplewood Farm, where they’ll see the more than 700 sugar maple trees, Pat’s Snack Shack and the famous Mellencamp Maplehouse. In the Maplehouse is a large evaporator that boils down the tree sap to syrup; it takes 40 gallons of sap to produce one gallon of syrup. The Maplehouse also features the country’s largest Rumford fireplace, making it a warm and cozy stop.
New this year is a Dutch Oven Cookoff organized by Lesley “Dutch Oven Diva” Tennessen, and church services by the Christian Country Cowboy Church on March 4 and 11 at 10:30 a.m. at the Mellencamp Maplehouse.
Proceeds from the festival benefit the Heads Up!!! Foundation, which will use the money for the Riley Hospital for Children’s “Camp About Face” at Bradford Woods, a summer camp for youth with craniofacial anomalies.
WHAT: National Maple Syrup Festival
WHEN: March 3-4 and March 10-11
8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
WHERE: Burton’s Maplewood Farm and Medora Community School
Medora, Ind. (20 minutes west off I-65 between Louisville and Indianapolis)
Parking is at Medora Community School, 82 S. George St., Medora, Ind.
COST: $10 for adults
$8 for seniors 65 and older
$6 for children ages 5 to 15
Free for ages 4 and younger
(Bring a canned good for local food pantries, and get $2 off admission.)
Elizabeth J. Musgrave is a syndicated columnist, travel writer, performing arts and restaurant critic. Catch her as Indy’s Arts & Entertainment Adviser on 93 WIBC, and follow her on Twitter @GottaGO and Facebook. Gotta Go is published in the following newspapers: South Sider Voice, Indiana Weekender, New Palestine Reporter, Pendleton Times Reporter and Fortville-McCordsville Reporter.